Blue Jays: Why is Gibby safe, while others get fired?

DETROIT, MI - JULY 14: Manager John Gibbons
DETROIT, MI - JULY 14: Manager John Gibbons /

After watching the Red Sox fire John Farrell and the rumours circling Joe Girardi’s head, why is the Blue Jays’ John Gibbons’ job so safe?

It’s that time of year in the baseball calendar when coaches start losing their job, and that happened to a former Blue Jays’ skipper when John Farrell was let go by the Boston Red Sox. Coincidentally enough, I wrote about him leaving the Blue Jays just a few days ago.

It’s not just Farrell in the news though, as the Tigers have let go of Brad Ausmus, Terry Collins resigned (instead of getting fired), and there are rumours that the Yankees may move on from Joe Girardi, although that doesn’t seem terribly likely now that they’ve knocked out the Cleveland Indians from the playoff picture. When expectations aren’t met then somebody usually has to take the fall, and that responsibility often ends up with the coaching staff.

For the Blue Jays, 2017 was an unmitigated disaster, and after a season like that it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the front office make some changes on the coaching staff. Instead, Gibbons’ staff received extensions (halfway through the troubling campaign), and Gibby himself was lauded for his work at the year end presser by Ross Atkins. When you look at it from the outside in, guys like Farrell must want to pull their hair out.

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It’s obviously not that simple, and for what it’s worth I’m in total support of Gibbons returning and working with the 2018 team, and hopefully beyond. While 2017 was a big time disappointment, I’m not sure how much of the blame should fall on Gibbons. Was it his fault that Aaron Sanchez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Devon Travis had season ending injuries? Is he to blame for Jose Bautista‘s struggles? The lack of injury depth in the rotation? He’ll take his share of it for sure, but there were an awful lot of cards stacked against him and his staff this year.

When you look at the full body of Gibbons’ work in Toronto, he’s done an excellent job, and I’m glad the front office didn’t forget about 2015-16 when evaluating his 2017, and overall performance.

The biggest difference between Gibbons and guys like Farrell or Girardi is all about expectations. While we all might have expected the Blue Jays to compete this season, Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have been waiting for the bottom to fall out of this team since they took over, and knew it was a matter of time. Age has a funny way of catching up to a roster eventually, and I honestly believe they expected it to happen at some point, even if 2017 was a year or two earlier than they might have predicted. When that happened, the front office knew that the team would endure a tough season or two, and they wanted to set up the team and minor league system to start moving beyond their current “window”.

For Farrell and Girardi the window is now, especially in the case of the Red Sox. You could argue that the Yankees arrived a little early, but the expectation in both cities is to win on a yearly basis, especially with a roster foundation like they both currently enjoy. For the Red Sox in particular, losing in the ALDS for the second consecutive season is a disappointment, especially by the nature of how they came to that fate. When you throw in the other controversies throughout the year like Pedroia’s comments, or David Price‘s dustup with Dennis Eckersley, there isn’t a lot of room left for error. For Girardi, the moments where his in-game decision making is criticized are starting to pile up, such as in Game 2 against Cleveland.

In Gibbons’ case, I suspect the front office will want to see some steps in the right direction in 2018, or the Blue Jay manager could eventually see the same fate. One of the least secure jobs in the world is the manager/coach of a professional sports team, so he won’t be around forever. That said, I’m glad the front office can see the value he’s brought to the table the last few years, even if the numbers don’t reflect it on paper.

Atkins and Shapiro have expressed that he’s an asset to work with, the player’s speak highly of him, and he’s done plenty of endearing things, like covering for Roberto Osuna earlier this year when he was battling with mental health issues. That’s how you earn respect from your players, and from what I can see, it would appear he’s got that from his clubhouse.

Sometimes it’s about a lot more than wins and losses, at least for awhile. For John Gibbons’ despite the fact that the Blue Jays were in last in AL East for all but the final day of the season, it would appear that he’s got as much job security as he could hope for. At a time when playoff teams are firing their skippers, I hope it gives you some reassurance that Gibby is doing something right.

Next: Bautista's decline could affect Donaldson's future